Tag Archives: Melbourne

Celebrating Latin American Studies at La Trobe University, Events, La Trobe University

The Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) at LaTrobe University in Melbourne is announcing the first call for papers/convocatoria for a major conference to be held in Melbourne, December 2-3, 2016.

2017 is the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) at La Trobe University in Melbourne and to celebrate this event we are organizing an international conference that will be open to all scholars (postgraduates are most welcome, too!) who are working on Latin America and the Caribbean in the Humanities and Social Sciences. We particularly welcome papers and panels that engage with the many areas and topics in which La Trobe academics have made important contributions over the years.

We will have a number of internationally renowned keynote speakers and the first confirmed ponente magistral is Alan Knight (Oxford University), perhaps the most influential anglophone historian working on Mexican history over the last 45 years.

[email protected] – Past, Present & Future: Celebrating Latin American Studies at La Trobe University

Source: Celebrating Latin American Studies at La Trobe University, Events, La Trobe University

Roze a Wail’: Whales, Whaling and Dreaming

Roze a Wail’: Whales, Whaling and Dreaming
29-30 September 2016
Australian Indigenous Studies
The University of Melbourne
The conference is grounded in Indigenous peoples’ connection with whales through ritual, song and story; and post-contact, their involvement in the whaling industry and the impact of whaling on their lives and culture. The conference encourages diverse contexts for discussion; for example, historical, sociological, cultural, literary, philosophical, scientific, artistic, ecological and economic perspectives.
As well as papers that present Indigenous stories of whales and whaling, we are also interested in representations of Indigenous peoples and practices in literature, film and visual art. Key texts in this area might include Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and the novel and film of Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider.
We especially welcome contributions that combine analysis with the experiential narratives of whales and nature-based lifestyles.
Expressions of interest should be sent to the Secretary, ‘Roze a Wail’ conference at <[email protected]>. A formal call for papers will be made in early 2016.
We thank Kim Scott for his permission to use ‘Roze a Wail’ (quoted from the opening pages of That Deadman Dance) as our conference title.

An-other way of being in the contemporary world

Reflections on Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Dr Riccardo Armillei
The Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University

Dr Eugenia Demuro
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

‘Que todo lo que hagamos tenga una dosis de humanidad’
(Rigoberta Menchú Tum)

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

 

On Wednesday 29th of July, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Rigoberta Menchú Tum delivered the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Diversity and Social Justice Annual Oration at Deakin University. Since its inception, the UNESCO Chair Program has promoted the establishment of hundreds of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks, serving the dual function of ‘think tanks’ and ‘bridge builders’ between academia, policy-makers, local communities, research and civil society (UNESCO 2013). The Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation was endorsed with this prestigious recognition in 2013, when Prof. Fethi Mansouri was awarded the UNESCO Chair in comparative research on ‘Cultural Diversity and Social Justice’. Due to her illustrious career in the struggle for Indigenous rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation, Rigoberta Menchú Tum was chosen, and kindly accepted the invitation, to be this year’s orator.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum was born in 1959 into a Quiche Mayan peasant family in Guatemala. A year later Guatemala was plunged into a civil war that lasted 36 years. It has been estimated that the civil war caused the death of 200,000 people, the displacement of more than half a million people, and the destruction of countless Mayan villages. The worst of the war came between 1979 and 1984, ‘during which over 90% of the total human rights violations were committed’ (Chamarbagwala & Morán 2011, p. 42). In 1982, following the military’s systematic oppression of any form of insurrection, and after the death of several members of her own family, Menchú Tum fled to neighboring Mexico. At that time, she was virtually unknown in her own country. It was after the death of her father in 1981—when he was burned alive by the Guatemalan army in the Spanish Embassy along with another thirty-eight members of the Committee for Peasant Unity (CUC)—, that Menchú Tum’s public visibility started to grow (Arias 2001). In 1983, she published I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, a gripping document that charts her path to political awareness and which attracted international attention and courted controversy. Since then, she has become an icon of indigenous resistance, a leading advocate of indigenous rights and a voice in recognition and reconciliation processes, not only in Guatemala but globally. Her work has earned her several international awards, most notably, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 (The Nobel Foundation 1992).

At Deakin University, Menchú Tum spoke on the guiding principles of her philosophy and of her ancestral knowledge – a model for another way of thinking. Her message was to imbue all our actions with a dose of our humanity, and for those of us working within academia, to put ourselves in the service of the world and to work towards an ‘integral academic vision’. This approach entails three different dimensions: human beings are composed of a spiritual, a material and a social dimension, which need to be in equilibrium with each other. The emphasis on materialism, and the lack of consideration for the spiritual and social dimensions, has had disastrous consequences for the times we live in. This is grounded on the premise that ‘what happens to others happens to us’. In this way, the need to bring together the personal and the collective is an important means to enact community practises of mutual respect and cooperation. The practise of respecting others, of acknowledging and seeing others, must be central to our behaviour and code of ethics.

For Menchú Tum, the social is built on the practise of a true egalitarianism that emphasises our social selves within a collective, with the aspiration of bettering ourselves in the service of others. This, Menchú Tum cites as the creation of a ‘culture of peace’. According to Menchú Tum the biggest secret of human beings is humility, as it is through humility that we can experience gratefulness towards other living creatures and towards the earth. Without dismissing the material dimension–for we are material beings—we should be content to take only that which ‘fits in our hands’ and leave the rest to others, as when we accumulate beyond our needs we are taking what is meant for others. Menchú Tum’s words, derived from the accumulated wisdom of her Mayan ancestors, spoke of a ‘science for life’ that provides guiding principles to live and to address three pressing questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? And, Where am I going? According to Menchú Tum, answering these involves seeing, listening and feeling. Our eyes, she tells us, are not enough.

For social scientists this requires developing new standards and categories of ‘knowledge’, and to re-consider how knowledge is used and re-produced. For instance, what social scientists regard as Education (with a capital E) within a Western context, and by extension what often defines Indigenous peoples the world over as ‘uneducated’, excludes non-Western epistemological and ontological traditions, and fails to recognise and appreciate other ways of knowing. If Indigenous peoples measured knowledge only within this Western frame, they would loose other ancestral ways of knowing the world. In an academic context measured by outputs, citation indexes and our ability to generate commercial returns, the idea of academia in the service of humanity is a revolutionary stance. And with academic peer-review plagued by gatekeepers and conservatism, opening up research to new ways of knowing the world and accommodating ‘subaltern’ epistemologies is a radical call to action. Any response will require us to shift the value system of the academic endeavour away from competition and the status quo, and towards community, humanity and new possibilities.

Menchú Tum has been often characterised as a ‘subaltern voice’ and has herself become an ‘object’ of study under the intensive scrutiny of Western intellectual elites. In particular, as Arturo Arias (2002) has argued, the controversy regarding Menchú Tum’s testimonio should be interpreted as ‘a symbolic lesion (lesson?) about the unwillingness of hegemonic intellectuals to listen to subaltern ones’ (p. 481) – part of a broader tendency to distort and transform other voices with the aim of misrepresenting ‘subaltern’ narratives. At one point of her oration, recalling the torture of her family members, tears welted in her eyes, yet her message was an optimistic one: to promote a different ‘code of thinking’; to reconfigure ourselves in the contemporary world. Those of us working within humanities and social sciences, and more broadly within academia, cannot be impassive in the face of these requests. We are left pondering on the need to open up new horizons of inquiry and on how to accommodate different perspectives within our academic endeavours. Undoubtedly, this will also require listening and engaging with seriousness and respect to the wealth of Indigenous scholarship and other knowledges. Today, the still-apparent lack of an intellectual investment in this direction, as Rigoberta Menchú Tum stressed, is frustrating any real possibility to enact other ways of being in the world.

 

Bibliography

Arias, A 2001, ‘Rigoberta Menchú’s history within the Guatemalan context’, in A Arias (ed.), The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy, University Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, USA, pp. 3-28.

Arias, A 2002, ‘After the Rigoberta Menchú Controversy: Lessons Learned About the Nature of Subalternity and the Specifics of the Indigenous Subject’, MLN, vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 481-505.

Chamarbagwala, R & Morán, HE 2011, ‘The human capital consequences of civil war: Evidence from Guatemala’, Journal of Development Economics, vol. 94, no. 1, pp. 41–61.

The Nobel Foundation 1992, ‘Rigoberta Menchú Tum – Biographical’, Nobelprize.org, retrieved 3 August 2015, <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1992/tum-bio.html>.

UNESCO 2013, University Twinning and Networking, UNESCO, retrieved 11 August 2015, <http://www.unesco.org/en/university-twinning-and-networking/university-twinning-and-networking/>.

People’s Tribunal on 11 April 2015

If you’re in Melbourne on 11 April, please come along to this important public event. You don’t have to be an employee of University of Melbourne to have an interest in the impact of neo-liberalism on our public institutions.

A popular tribunal including Aboriginal elders will hear evidence and testimonies about the employment practices used to reform professional positions at the University of Melbourne. Over 500 professional staff have lost their positions, and many more suffer mental stress, due to the loss of job stability.

Location: Brunswick Uniting Church, 212/214 Sydney Road

Date: 10.00am-4.00pm, Saturday, 11 April 2015

See https://www.facebook.com/thepeoplestribunal

Launch of Thinking the Antipodes by Peter Beilharz

Thinking the Antipodes: Australian Essays

By Peter Beilharz

To be launched by Nikos Papastergiadis at 7pm on 9 March, 2015

Greek Centre, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Mezzanine level

Please RSVP to Monash University Publishing at [email protected] by 4 March Co-sponsored by The Greek Centre, Melbourne, and the Thesis Eleven Centre, La Trobe University

In 1956 Bernard smith wrote that we in Australia were migratory birds. This was to become a leading motif of his own thinking, and a significant inspiration for sociologist peter Beilharz. Beilharz came to argue that the idea of the antipodes made sense less in its geographical than its cultural form, viewed as a relation rather than a place. Australians had one foot here and one there, whichever ‘there’ this was. This way of thinking with and after Bernard smith makes up one current of Beilharz’s best Australian essays.

Two other streams contribute to the collection. The second recovers and publicises antipodean intellectuals, from Childe to Evatt to Stretton to Jean Martin, who have often been overshadowed here by the reception given to metropolitan celebrity thinkers; and examines others, like Hughes and Carey, who have been celebrated as writers more than as interpreters of the antipodean condition.

The third stream engages with mainstream views of Australian writing, and with the limits of these views. if we think in terms of cultural traffic, then the stories we tell about Australia will also be global and regional in a broader sense. Australia is the result of cultural traffic, local and global.

Kay Abude’s Piecework reveals the labour of capital

Kay Abude, Piecework,  2014 Steel, MDF, timber, plywood, fluorescent lights, chairs, cardboard, paper, plaster, silicone rubber, paint, brushes, various modeling tools and steel utensils, latex gloves, cotton and nylon rags, cotton velvet, silk, rayon braided cord and workers. Dimensions variable

Kay Abude, Piecework, 2014 Steel, MDF, timber, plywood, fluorescent lights, chairs, cardboard, paper, plaster, silicone rubber, paint, brushes, various modeling tools and steel utensils, latex gloves, cotton and nylon rags, cotton velvet, silk, rayon braided cord and workers. Dimensions variable

Piecework, 2014 is an installation and series of durational performances that occur throughout its exhibition in Gallery 2 at Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts.  The installation consists of three workstations and three workers dressed in a uniform.  The workers engage in an activity of casting plaster objects from moulds in the form of 14.4kg gold bars.  These casts are then painted gold.  Piecework displays a purposefully futile labour of a repetitive and tireless fashion.  It explores a form of work relating directly to performance that is quantifiable, investigating ideas of power and value and asks questions about the role and meaning of labour within artistic practice.

Shift work is characteristic of the manufacturing industry, and the artwork employs performative strategies in a rigorous process and task orientated manner by using Linden as a workplace that is in constant operation over the period of a 24-hour cycle.  The ‘three-shift system’ is performed (Shift 1: 06:00-14:00, Shift 2:14:00-22:00 and Shift 3: 22:00-06:00) by the three workers who produce these gold bars throughout the six week exhibition period.  The workers are paid a fixed piece rate for each unit produced/each operational step completed per shift.  Ideas of the factory are embedded in the vary nature of the work mimicking a manufacturing process carried out by uniformed workers who take up their posts in eight hour shifts.

The catalogue essay by Jessica O’Brien:

The poetry and politics of production

Addressing the intersection between art, life and capitalism, Kay Abude’s Piecework interweaves personal experience, a critique on the distribution of global economic power, and the relationship between producers and consumers.

Piecework unfolds over a six-week period. A durational performance piece highlighting labour and process, the performers undertake manufacturing processes that reference the artist’s personal experience and recent site visits to Chinese factories. The group works through an endless pattern of standardised procedures that result in gold painted serialized plaster ingots. The performances are structured according to a three-shift system, dividing the day into three eight-hour working shifts that mimic a continuous 24-hour production cycle.

By foregrounding the body of the worker, Piecework engages with the pervasive neo-colonial first world practice of exploiting emerging economies and their abundance of cheap, unregulated labour. With most of Australia’s goods produced offshore, the performance addresses the disconnection in the minds of the consumer between the products we buy, and the often dehumanising labour that is required to produce it.

Banal, repetitive, precise and designed for maximum efficiency, Piecework could stand in for the processes behind countless products and could be extrapolated in factories a hundred or a thousand times over. Each action is carefully considered, creating a Haiku-like poetry to the work.

Highlighting the formality existing in standardised production, there is a purposeful ambiguity in the artist’s aestheticised interpretation of reality. Kay writes: “Two different types of labour exist in the two environments of the factory and the studio. The large populations filling the factories are dependent on the market that exploits them. These people labour because they must work for their livelihoods – they work in order to live and survive. The labour present in art practice is one that is voluntary and pleasurable for the artist – the artist lives to work and create.”[1]

Downplaying the desire for a single ‘artist’s hand’ in the work, while expressly displaying the labour that it took to create it, the audience is left to question the value of the objects that are produced, and how it is conferred.

At the crux of these ambiguities is the role of the audience in the artwork. “The fine arts traditionally demand for their appreciation physically passive observers…but active art requires that creation and realization, artwork and appreciator, artwork and life be inseparable.”[2] Utilising the understanding that the relationship between the artist and the audience is at the heart of Performance Art, the seemingly passive and non-participatory viewers of Piecework are in fact directly implicated in the work.

Piecework replicates the role the audience plays as participants of consumer culture, in their role as consumers of the artwork. Abude is the manufacturer and we the consumer. Without a market or an audience, ‘production’, in every sense of the word, would not exist.

By foregrounding the human process by which consumer goods are made through the physical presence of the workers, Piecework addresses the disconnection and compartmentalisation that is characteristic of present day consumption in a capitalistic society. And yet it also replicates those very relationships, distilling and aestheticising disturbing imbalances of power.

As Claire Bishop’s remarks: “The most striking projects… [hold] artistic and social critiques in tension.”[3] Piecework is a considered response to a pervasive social issue, but does not attempt to present a fixed meaning, or take on the herculean responsibility of suggesting a solution to global economic inequality. As unwitting participants of the performance, the significance we chose to ascribe to our role as a consumer of product and artwork is up to us.

Jessica O’Brien
June 2014

Jessica O’Brien is an independent curator and writer based in Melbourne.

[1] Abude, Kay, Put to work, M Fine Art, Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Music, The University of Melbourne: November 2010, p. 28.

[2] Kaprow, Allen, Essays in the Blurring of Art and Life, Berkeley: University of California Press: 2003, p. 64.

[3]Bishop, Claire, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, Verso Books: 2012, p. 277-8.

History under fire

Therese Keogh was invited to create work for the Sievers Project, an exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography that revisited the work of a major Australian photographer who documented the glories of industry in the 20th century. Keogh was drawn to Sievers’ photograph of a severed hand holding a sheaf of wheat, a fragment of the marble statue of Ceres in Rome. She discovered that much of the imperial marble was eventually transformed into quicklime used to make concrete.  It can also be used as a soil amendment to counterbalance soil acidity. In order to investigate this process herself, Keogh sourced a marble pediment of an altar from a church in Ballarat. She then worked out how to fire this marble, which was eventually displayed in the gallery as a block of quicklime.

Keogh’s work witnesses the reduction of art into commerce. This can be seen as a loss echoing the demise of the grand paternalistic world of manufacture once celebrated by Sievers. But it can also be seen as a recovery of value from what is left behind, returning products of human endeavour to the earth from whence it came.

What is interesting from the perspective of South Ways is the adventure of the artist in confronting the material challenge herself, without recourse to external assistance. Her two hands thus provide a tangible link between the various phases of the cycle, moving from monument to earth. They allow us to witness the transformation of matter itself, a dimension otherwise absent from the silvery surfaces of Sievers’ prints.

Below are photos of the firing of the marble with Keogh’s description of the process:

These images show the firing of a marble object inside a large steel box. I started with a block of marble in my studio, and – over a period of several months – chipped away at its surface. I didn’t begin this process with an end point in mind. Part of me was looking for a fault in the marble, and so I kept carving in the hope that the stone would reveal its weaknesses, which would then allow me to stop. But one day the mallet I had been using broke with the force and repetition of the carving. The mallet’s head split in two, and it was like the marble was reacting against its own transformation. So I stopped.

Marble is a form of calcium carbonate, metamorphosed from limestone. When fired, the carbon dioxide trapped inside is burned away, transforming the calcium carbonate into calcium oxide, or quicklime. Quicklime doesn’t occur without human intervention, and is used for a variety of applications (including as a base ingredient in concrete, and, in agriculture, as a soil amendment to neutralise earth with high acidity). It is called quicklime (from the original meaning of the word ‘quick’ as something that is alive, or living) because when it comes into contact with water a chemical reaction takes place that creates extremely high temperatures, and has been known to cause severe burns to the skin of people working with it.

Once the carving had finished, I constructed a steel box that would house the marble during its firing. The box protected the marble from the smoke of the fire, and allowed it to be heated more evenly.

My mum owns a property in Central Victoria, where I took the marble and the box to be fired. I propped up the box, with the marble inside, on four bricks in a paddock, and built a fire around it. The fire burned for about eighteen hours, as I stoked it through the night. When it had died down, I took the lid off the box. The marble – now quicklime – had cracked as it heated and cooled. Its surface had changed from being luminous to kind of chalky, as its chemical composition was irreversibly altered from the fire.

 

Therese Keogh, After Firing (CaO), image courtesy Christian Capurro, 2014

Therese Keogh, After Firing (CaO), image courtesy Christian Capurro, 2014

Therese Keogh is a Melbourne artist – www.theresekeogh.com. Featured image at the top of this page is her hand-drawn version of the original Sievers’ photo.

Continue reading History under fire